Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

Can music help with Alzheimer’s or dementia? My grandmother is in a local care center and she always loved music. I would try it if it would help. 


Just wondering

Dear Just Wondering,

The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease study confirms that music can sometimes actually lift people out of the Alzheimer’s haze and bring them back to at least the appearance of normality. 

Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease – just with simple, non-drug medicine called music.

The diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and taxing resources to the max. No one is saying that playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life. 

It’s worth bringing some headphones and some music to your grandmother’s care center. Play her era of music and see how well she responds to it. Wouldn’t it be great if it made her smile? It’s very honorable that you care. 

Dear Barb,

My best friend is always feeling like everything happens to her and nothing ever goes her way. She claims she isn’t sad or depressed about her life, but she talks continuously about herself and her awful circumstances. She is focused on how everything is affecting her schedule or her life and even when I bring up a positive she won’t hear it or will twist it around to a negative perspective. Is this just normal behavior for most adults now? Are we so afraid of things going wrong or life being out of our control that we exaggerate the outcomes? Is this a sign of depression not yet diagnosed? 


Confused and Concerned

Dear Confused and Concerned,

The way you move, sleep and interact with people around you can exhibit signs of depression, and even how you speak or express yourself in writing. 

Studies have now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Those with symptoms of depression use significantly more first person singular pronouns such as “me,” “myself” and “I” as well as significantly fewer second and third person pronouns, such as “they,” “them” or “she.” This pattern suggests that people with depression are more focused on themselves and less connected with others. 

The question would be: Does depression cause people to focus on themselves, or do people who focus on themselves get symptoms of depression? Those with depression will have a more black and white view of the world, and this will manifest in their style of language. 

Life is difficult and “absolutist words” – words that convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities such as “always,” “nothing” or “completely” – were found to be better markers for mental health issues than pronouns or negative emotion words. 

The prevalence of absolutist words is approximately 50 percent greater for those with anxiety and depression and approximately 80 percent greater for those who have suicidal inclinations.

It is amazing that there are currently 300 million people worldwide who are living depressed. It has increased by 18 percent since 2005.

Things you can do to help your friend are to keep the communication open. Remind her that things don’t have to be perfect all the time. Listen to her as she catastrophizesthings and allow her to think through the worst-case scenario. The worst case is usually not that life shattering in actuality. Deep down she may know this fact, but she doesn’t want to focus on that but would rather see the negative outcome. 

Things you can do to help yourself: First, don’t take on her anxiety! If you are not careful, it will become contagious and infect your way of thinking. Suddenly you will feel tense or uneasy. You are not responsible for her perspective or anxious views in every situation of life. Remove the emotion from her words while she conveys her stories of woes. That takes conscious thought and effort.

Writing in a journal is one of the best ways to relax the brain and help discharge emotional pressure. The journal used as a tool to only diary positive thoughts as much as humanly possible will take effort. This creates a strong tendency to look for the best instantly when things go wrong in real life. Suggest writing in a journal to your friend and try it yourself. After all, we are creatures of habit. What we think, we believe.

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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